• The representation of women in public utility boardrooms is growing at a very slow pace, which is a worrying trend, a new research has indicated.

    The Ernst and Young (EY) report on Women in Power and Utilities Index 2016 shows that over the last three years, the number of women in public utility boardrooms has risen by a meager 1%.

    Although a positive trend, the slow growth shows that much more has to be done to ensure that women take up leadership positions in the boardrooms.

    The pace of growth needs to be accelerated. Otherwise, with the “current rate of a 1% rise every three years, it would take as long as 42 years to reach 30% women on boards, and 72 years to reach 40%. That’s too long” part of the report reads.

    Further, the report indicates that Africa and the Middle East have the lowest fraction of female board executive directors.

    The Americas led by Latin America topped the list with nine percent. North America and Europe followed closely with seven percent. Looking at the representation of women in non-executive board functions, these regions still had the highest representation.

    Compared to Asia-Pacific region which stands at 3% in board executives category, the Africa/Middle East has double the executives (6%).

    According to the report, government mandates on gender diversity are relatively new to Asia-Pacific and, in some countries, cultural factors remain an issue, which has contributed to the low numbers.

    During the recent commemoration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) by Exchanges across the globe, the Nairobi Stock Exchange Chairman Mr Eddy Njoroge noted that the overall percentage of women board directors on the boards of Africa’s top listed companies stands at 12.7%. Mr Njoroge added that the survey which was carried out by the African Development Bank in 12 African countries showed that out of 2,865 seats only 364 were taken by the female board of directors. He insisted on the need to support and elect more women to the executive positions.

    The Standard quoted Gitahi Gachahi, EY Eastern Africa Regional Managing Partner who lobbied companies to strive to have a corporate culture that allows women to sit on their boards. "Most women are very industrious, enterprising and focused on bringing difficult perspectives in the boardroom, thus enriching the corporate agenda. They have a longer-term vision, with a keen eye on business sustainability." 

    “Having women on the board makes good business sense. It’s a performance issue with bottom-line impact,” the report advised noting that there is a “well-documented body of evidence that shows the links between the presence of more women on the board and increased profitability, return on investment and innovation. Well-known global organizations have done the analysis, and we’ve presented it in previous issues of the Index.”

    How can aspiring women get these positions?

    According to EY, aspiring women need to differentiate themselves by acquiring the right skill sets. The report encourages women to be thoughtful about how they develop expertise and understand how this expertise aligns with the priorities of the boards they are interested in.

    The report points out a few areas through which women can achieve these positions. They include:

    • Be extraordinary at your current job.
    • Think about the collaboration model, and how you work across your organization. You need to develop and demonstrate impact and influence.
    • To stand out and be noticed, have a point of view. It doesn’t have to be polarizing. But don’t fall into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. Be thoughtful, have a point of view and share it.
    • Take lateral moves. If you stick to one area of the business, you will reach a point where you’re blocked. That won’t happen if you move across the organization and broaden your operational and functional experience. This also puts you in a better position to have a point of view because you have been part of the broader organization. 

    Image credit: Fast Company